TALK by Carlos H. Condem, Human Rigths Watch Asia Division
Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has carried out a “war on drugs” resulting in the deaths of over 12,000 suspected drug dealers and users. The government has attributed nearly half the killings to the Philippine National Police, and the remainder to “unidentified gunmen.” Among those killed are children, often caught in the cross-fire or, in several instances, specifically targeted by the killers. Cases investigated by the media and human rights groups invariably found unlawful executions by police or agents of the police typically acting as “death squads.”
Duterte has been outspoken in support of the anti-drug campaign and has sought to silence its critics, notably the drug war’s chief critic Senator Leila de Lima, who remains in police custody on politically motivated charges. No meaningful investigation into the killings has been undertaken. The government has relentlessly and methodically tried to undermine efforts by the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions to visit the Philippines and investigate the killings.
Duterte’s social media army and trolls have likewise been waging a relentless and vitriolic attack on journalists and human rights defenders on social media, often by using allegations of fake news to undermine critical media reporting and by spreading falsehoods and lies about critics. Threats of violence – including sexual violence – have been spread on Twitter and Facebook, creating a toxic atmosphere for those who cover and monitor the human rights abuses in the Philippines.
Carlos H. Condem. Before joining HRW, Carlos worked as a journalist for 20 years, mainly as the freelance correspondent in Manila for The New York Times. Prior to that, he has worked as a reporter and editor for various publications in the Philippines, writing about politics, human rights, the communist and Islamic insurgencies, terrorism, labor migration, among other subjects. Conde has served as secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines and has been a fellow at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, both based in Manila. He was also a Jefferson Fellow at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii.